Culture Secretary failing to meet his legal obligations, but we’re paying

31_march_2016A letter a day to number 10. No 1,388

Thursday 31 March 2016.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Alongside your privatisation and dismantling of our education system, a chronic shortage of teachers and the impending deportation of teachers recruited from abroad for earning too little, hundreds of libraries are closing across the nation.

Academies are free to employ non-qualified teaching staff. Given that any imaginative or intellectual stimulation is now in free fall, I guess privatised academies might just as well cut to the chase and teach kids how to lift boxes, stack shelves, flip burgers, get drunk, take drugs and numb themselves the hell out of any meaningful existence.

This is death by a thousand government cuts yet you have the gall to accuse councils of politically motivated cuts to services as you did to Birmingham for cutting library opening hours and even complained to your own Oxfordshire Conservative council when it is your government which is slashing grants and cutting councils to the bone.

But back to libraries and books. Whatever the benefits of computers, the Internet and the development of e-readers like Kindle, there is no substitute for the joy of a book. It is not just that a book is entirely self contained, complete in and of itself, it is also something that can be treasured in a private way, a source of food for the mind and imagination that reinforces ones individual being and through which one can be utterly transported. Plus, a bookcase full of books is lovely to behold, full of promise.

In the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 it states that, ‘it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales’. I have to ask why John Whittingdale, the current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whose responsibilities cover libraries, is not fulfilling the duty for which he is paid ¬£134,565 and required to do in law?

Libraries are much more than book repositories, they are a vital resource for people who require access to computers who are unable to afford a personal computer and yet need access to the Internet, such as jobseekers, who are required to search online for jobs and who face sanctions if they are denied such access. If John Whittingdale fails to meet his lawful obligations it is to him that sanctions should be applied instead of those who fall victim to his failure.

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